South Africa culls millions of chickens in an effort to contain bird flu outbreaks

South Africa has culled approximately 7.5 million chickens in an effort to contain multiple outbreaks of bird flu that threaten to disrupt the supply of eggs and poultry for consumers.

Bird Flu Outbreak: South Africa is tackling numerous outbreaks of two separate strands of avian influenza that have resulted in a shortage of eggs and poultry.
* Overall 205,000 chickens have died across 60 different outbreaks in the country, with more than half of these in Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg and Pretoria.
* This week, some grocery stores in Johannesburg limited the amount of eggs that customers could purchase, with some places only allowing one carton of six eggs per customer.
* The government confirmed that there were “supply constraints” due to these bird flu outbreaks.

Response and Impact: The government and the South African Poultry Association have culled millions of chickens in response.
* Government reports indicated that 2.5 million chickens bred for meat had been culled.
* The South African Poultry Association added that another 5 million egg-laying chickens had been culled.
* These 7.5 million culled chickens represent 20-30% of South Africa’s total chicken stock according to Izaak Breitenbach, the general manager of the South African Poultry Association.

Economic Consequences: The bird flu outbreaks have caused a significant economic hit on an industry already struggling due to an ongoing electricity crisis in the country.
* Breitenbach stated that South Africa has experienced three major bird flu outbreaks in recent years, with the latest being “by far the worst,” costing the industry a minimum of $25 million.
* Neighbouring Namibia has banned chicken meat and egg imports from South Africa.
* The poultry industry is facing additional challenges due to power shortages, which have forced farmers to cull around 10 million young chicks earlier this year due to regular planned electricity blackouts.

Next Steps: South Africa is taking steps to ensure sufficient egg supply for the public and to stop further bird flu outbreaks.
* The country is speeding up the process for issuing new import permits for businesses to bring in eggs from other countries.
* The Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza mentioned that the Ministry is also considering launching a vaccination program to halt the flu outbreaks.
* The vaccines would need to be imported and could be ready to use within two to six months.

View original article on NPR

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